Wednesday, February 10, 2010

In suspense and incomplete

"We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.

We should like to skip the intermediate stages,

We are impatient of being on the way to do something
something new.

And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you.

our ideas mature gradually—
let them grow,

let them shape themselves,
without undue haste.

Don’t try to force them on,

as though you could be today
what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)

will make of you tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new spirit

gradually forming within you will be.

Give our Lord the benefit of believing

that his hand is leading you,

and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself

in suspense and incomplete.

—Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

I don't know about you, but I long ago discovered -- during a long dry spell when I would have nothing to do with "church" -- that around this time of year I always seem to become rather painfully aware of my own deeply flawed nature. Lent, that period of wrestling with our particular challenges, seems to come in February and March whether or not I am involved in any sort of congregational life. So I shouldn't be surprised that these issues are starting to surface again: Lent is, after all, just around the corner.

A friend of mine who's been listening to my grumbling pointed out a few days ago that some of my current challenges seem to come out of my perfectionism -- something I definitely needed to be reminded of! So I was thrilled when I discovered this quote yesterday, sitting outside the room where my spirituality class meets. Of course, it's been sitting there for months -- I just hadn't noticed it until now.

And then, this morning, I was reading again in Richard Rohr's Everything Belongs, and he reminded us that Jesus' first image was about weeds and wheat, and letting the weeds continue. "Holding weed and wheat together in our one field of life," says Rohr, "takes a lot more patience, compassion, and forgiveness than aiming for some illusory perfection that is blind to its own faults."

The truth of it is -- we are none of us "there" yet. We all struggle with our shadows, and with unconscious fears and motivations; we all feel bouts of shame and guilt for "the things we have done and the things we have left undone;" and I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who gets frustrated with the huge gap between what I believe and how I live it out. But the fact is that those struggles keep us honest, authentic, and they have much to teach us.

Here's the good news: it's all good. That struggle is our whetstone: it keeps us on edge, keeps us moving forward, and reminds us daily to return to that Divine well for sustenance, strength, encouragement, humility -- all those gifts which well up out of our own challenges, our awareness of our own imperfections.

And so I close with the gentle reminder that is actually the first line of that Teilhard de Chardin piece I quoted above.

"Above all, trust in the slow work of God."

It's happening. We're growing, evolving, improving, releasing, opening. And it's okay that we're not "there" yet, that we sometimes find we're still banging our heads against the same brick walls that blocked us before we started on this path. Have compassion on yourself and trust: the work may be slow, but it IS happening. And it's all good.


Maureen said...

Diane, this post really moves me. Everything about it is wonderful: the quotes, your words, that great line "That struggle is our whetstone.", and the faith that holds on, and holds on.

Louise Gallagher said...

Hi diane, I agree with Maureen. Wonderful!

And it's all good.

Dianna Woolley said...

Refreshing reminder that we're growing, evolving, etc. Not there yet may be the best words; I compare those words in growth to a vacation trip....Often the sweetest moments are when the bags are packed I've passed thru security airport and am ready to board - all the anticipatory sweetness lies ahead toward the final destination.